New safety measures in place as student set to return to class

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By Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative

Chatham-Kent’s students are back-to-school next Monday with new safety measures put into place, outlined by the province, to keep them safe from COVID-19.

On Wednesday, the provincial government announced that all schools board with the exception of those in Toronto, Peel and York, will reopen for in-person learning on Feb. 8.

Deb Crawford, director of education for St. Clair Catholic District School Board, said there are now measures in place for the board employees and secondary students to confirm that they have self-screened using the provincial screening tool.

“If they look at the results of the tool and they’re not feeling well, they should not be coming to school,” Crawford said.

Masking requirements have also been applied to all students in Grade 1 to Grade 4.

“Masking has also been expanded to buses and masking has been extended to doors when two metres cannot be maintained between the students,” John Howitt, director of education, Lambton-Kent District School Board, said.

Dr. David Colby, Chatham-Kent’s medical officer of health, said the enhanced screening measures are the most important to follow because workers across all sectors in Chatham-Kent have attended work while sick.

“This really is due to a number of reasons people interpreting the aches and pains and sniffles of everyday life, not as actual symptoms of the infection. Other people are in denial and some people, a very small number, are in defiance,” he said.

Lambton-Kent Composite School is still in outbreak status after two people tested positive on Jan. 26. Students will return to the school, Colby said, except for any cohorts who may be affected.

Howitt said the third semester deadline for students to transition from the virtual schools to the in-person classes, and vice-versa, has already passed and will take effect on Monday. The next date for parents to switch will be coming up in April. Individual exceptions have to first go through a school’s principal who will work with the board to ensure they are still respecting the limits put on class sizes during the pandemic.

Howitt added they are asking parents/guardians to return any electronic devices their kids may have borrowed from the school during the most recent lockdown.

“I’ve been very happy with the way that the school boards have conducted their approach to the pandemic all the way along. We have a great working relationship and really we have certainly not seen schools and children in schools being a source of infection to others in the community,” Colby added.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce is expected to make a decision next week regarding a potential cancellation of March break with advice from Ontario’s chief medical officer of health.

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